Leaders Loughborough Riders
used a third-period surge to overcome Hemel Storm on Saturday in a dress rehearsal for this weekend’s National Cup semi-final clash.
Hemel Storm came out for the second-half of this National League Division One game against table-toppers Riders at Sportspace on Saturday with the scores knotted at 43 points apiece after a spirited performance.
But helped by accurate three-point shooting, the visitors took over the game late in the third period as Hemel struggled to find offensive rhythm against their swarming defence and were guilty of defensive lapses that gifted the Riders some easy close-range shots.
Riders were able to open a ten-point advantage, outscoring Storm 25-15 as the third period ended.
Although Storm mounted a late rally in the final quarter, the damage was already done and Riders were able to secure an 86-73 win to remain top of the standings.
Storm slipped to fourth place in the table after the loss. Although they are on the same win record as Reading, their better points difference puts them in third place to pip Storm to that spot.
Hemel matched the visitors in just about every aspect of the game, except for three-point shooting.
Storm chose a bad game to have their lowest three-point percentage of the season, hitting just two scores from 21 long-range attempts, while Loughborough hit 11 from 27 to garner 33 points from long range.
The hosts started the game well but in a fast-paced opening period, three triples from the visitors kept them in touch.
Free-throws from Hemel’s Courtney van-Beest put his side 22-17 ahead with only seconds left in the period but the visitors’ Sesan Russell hit back with a jump-shot to close the gap to three points.
A tit-for-tat second period was kept close once again by the Riders’ use of the three-point shot as they sank four efforts from beyond the arc – all by different players – to Hemel’s one.
Coach Youngblood said afterwards: “In the first-half we played really well as a unit, we moved the ball well and our spacing on court was good.
“But in the second-half we looked tired, slow and just didn’t compete.
“Come next Sunday you’ll see a different Storm team for sure.
“We’ll be well prepared and ready to go to war.
“There’s nothing like a trip to a national final – but we’ll have to play hard for 40 minutes to get there.”
Storm team and scorers v Riders: Bode Adeluola 13, Lee Greenan 13, Dave Ajumobi 8, Tom Adorian 8, Jack Burnell 7, Wayne Yeboah 6, AJ Roberts 6, Courtney Van-Beest 5, Walid Mumuni 4 and Michael Darlow 3,
Storm face Riders at Sportspace this Sunday in the semi-final of the National Cup.
Tip-off is at 5pm.
For tickets or further information, see the website www.stormbasketball.net.